Woolworths cuts costs of hiring staff via Web

A Web-based recruitment strategy developed by Woolworths plc in partnership
with ChangeWork Now is potentially reducing the high street retailing giant’s
direct hiring costs by up to 70 per cent, dramatically lowering hiring lead
times and improving the all-round effectiveness of the recruitment process.
Candidates fill in short criteria-based questionnaires about past experience
and qualifications. Details are fed into a supporting candidate management
system which allows Woolworth’s resourcing team to see at-a-glance the
candidates whose knowledge, experience and values most closely match their
requirements. Iain Lewis, UK resourcing manager for Woolworths shares his

PT What was your motivation for introducing the online application

IL To provide potential candidates with the facility to apply online.
This was important because we didn’t want candidates to feel that they couldn’t
apply online to Woolworths while they could apply in this way to other
organisations. So it was really an issue of competitiveness. Also we knew there
were a growing number of candidates who would prefer to apply online and we
wanted to be able to meet their needs.

The other motivation was that we needed a tool or process through which we
could quickly, consistently and effectively screen large volumes of candidates.
Recruiting for store management results in large numbers of applicants. For
example in January this year we had 2,500 CVs landing on our desk. We are
certain that we lost some good candidates purely due to the length of time it
took us to review their details.

PT What were the main difficulties implementing the system?

IL The implementation went very well with only one hiccup which meant
moving the implementation date back about 10 days. ChangeWork Now, which
developed the process, ensured that all issues were identified and resolved
quickly and effectively.

PT Are you reaping the benefits?

IL Definitely. We now have an effective database, which we can use to
quickly identify candidates for specific vacancies. We have never been able to
do this. We have examples of candidates being offered a role of store or
assistant manager within three days of making an application. Previously, we
may not even have received the application within three days, let alone been
able to look at it.

The online application process is also helping to screen out more of the
unsuitable candidates than with previous processes so we are spending less time
looking at unsuitable CVs.

Overall, the benefits of the system have helped us move towards becoming an
"internal recruitment consultancy" faster than we thought possible.
And this means being able to respond to our internal customers really
effectively and quickly with the right quantity and quality of candidates. We
are running a campaign at the moment for a "hard to fill" position
and we feel more proactive and in control.

It has speeded recruitment up. We are also getting less unsuitable
candidates. Their details are also at our fingertips so if they call with
queries or questions we can immediately respond. And as it fits in with our
existing process we didn’t have to change anything to make it work.

PT What advice would you offer for someone embarking on a similar

IL Prepare to challenge your own assumptions of what you recruit, why
you recruit and how you recruit. We had a view that candidates needed to have A
levels and that education was one of the most important criteria. Challenged to
think hard about it, we realised experience is more important. We also had an
interesting discussion about the order of questions, and we now ask how much
retail experience people have. Our feedback also shows this makes candidates
feel their experience is more valued.

Identify an organisation that has previously produced a tool that you want
and have some real experiences.

Finally, get as much buy-in from all the relevant parts of your
organisation: your customers; IT, Web designers, and HR colleagues. We held a
number of internal meetings at the early stage of the project and that was
essential. We also involved a wide spectrum of users including current
job-holders to help us determine the criteria.

PT Do you have plans to extend your online recruitment strategy?

IL Yes. We are considering online application processes for both our
Graduate Programme and our Fast Track Management Scheme.


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